Beyond our physical world: Researcher studies mathematics in other spaces
From designing a new building to figuring out how much time a car drive will take, mathematical formulas are used throughout our world. When equipped with numbers and well-established equations, people of all backgrounds can create processes to aid with productivity and efficiency. But the beauty of mathematics is that it can also leave behind what we can directly observe and move into spaces that are out of reach of reality. To study these rough structures, mathematicians add conditions of their choosing. And the mathematical tools developed from these spaces aren’t just rooted in theory but circle back to the physical world, informing researchers looking at robotics, internet search engines, image classification, and many areas within computer science.
One of these researchers is Professor Xiaodan Zhou from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). Professor Zhou studies functions and partial differential equations in metric spaces and expects to initiate collaborations with fields outside of pure mathematics in the future.
“My interest in mathematics started from a very early age,” said Professor Zhou. “Back then, I loved reading detective novels and murder mysteries. I found that doing mathematical exercises was like solving a puzzle. The way the exercises were designed meant that there must be solution – like a detective working at a crime scene. I first heard about metric spaces during my undergraduate. The whole idea – that we can move into this space where we assume minimal conditions and it still produces a rich theory – was amazing to me.”